My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Friday, December 16, 2011

Annual FruitShare

Look what arrived on our doorstep (our new doorstep may I add).

I get so excited every winter for our share of citrus. Just think: fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, citrus cocktails, candied orange peels and nice portable snacks.

I usually order the larger box, but since life is crazy right now, I ordered the smaller one this time. Plus, I can always reorder:). Get yours at

P.S. This is the first time posting from my phone :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Alexia Sweet Potato Puffs

Getting ready for a move is so extremely time consuming. We move later this week and our house is in a state of disarray as we organize and pack each room. As you can imagine, we barely have time for cooking or dishes so I've been opening my eyes to some convenience foods.

When Alexia Foods e-mailed me offering sample packages of their new Sweet Potato Puffs, I was pretty excited. Thoughts of tater tot hot dish and veggie burgers started swirling in my head. From the picture on the package, it looked similar to a tater tot, so I wondered why it wasn't called a tot.

When the package arrived, I looked a little closer and saw that it was shaped like a tater tot, but lacked the texture of a tater tot. Hence the name: sweet potato puffs. Unfortunately, it was not going to work well for a tater tot casserole, so I went for Plan B, a side dish for veggie burgers.

Tasting the puffs right out of the oven, the exterior was firm but not crispy and the interior tasted (and felt) like mashed sweet potatoes, similar to a giant sweet potato fry. Wanting to spice it up a little bit, I made a dipping sauce using 1 cup of light sour cream and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Exotic Blend from Sameh Wadi's Spice Trail.

Overall, I thought it was a fun and inventive product (and a very easy side dish…or appetizer), but it just wasn't the right convenience food for me. With over 14 ingredients, I'll stick to making my own sweet potato side dishes.

Disclaimer: Alexia Foods sent me Sweet Potato Puffs to sample at no cost. I was under no obligation to blog about it and of course, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Wine Sauce

Earlier this week, I shared my new favorite leftover recipe on If you're lucky enough to have leftover pie, you have to try the Pumpkin Pie Parfait recipe. Mmm…so good!
I was recently reminded of a recipe I posted over on WCCO a couple Thanksgivings ago. Since they redid their website (my page included), it never got archived so I figured it would be good to post again over here.

This sauce is absolutely delicious.  The sweetness from the sugar and tartness from the cranberries make an excellent pair.  The Ratafia enhances the orange flavor and brings out the spiciness from cloves, allspice and cinnamon, but you can certainly use port instead as that's what the original recipe called for.

Have leftover cranberry sauce? Use it to top your oatmeal :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ruby Ratafia Cranberry Sauce
(adapted from Los Angeles Times)
Makes 2 cups

1 ½ cups Alexis Bailly Ratafia (or port)
¾ cup sugar
3 cloves
½ stick cinnamon
3 allspice berries (or a dash of allspice)
4 black peppercorns
2-inch-by- ½  -inch strip of orange peel
1 (12 ounce) package cranberries, washed

In a medium saucepan, combine the Ratafia and sugar. Tie the cloves, cinnamon stick, allspice and black peppercorns in a small piece of cheesecloth. Add the spice bundle to the saucepan. Add the orange peel. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the wine is reduced to 1 cup, about 4 minutes.

Add the cranberries to the wine. Return to a simmer over medium-high heat then lower the heat and simmer until the cranberries pop, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Let cool to warm then remove the spice bundle and orange peel. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hello Charlie!

There's always something to do in this town and I love it! Not only am I hitting up the Kingfield Holiday Market, but I'm also going to the Charlie Awards on Sunday, November 20th. The event was organized by someone I admire greatly, Sue Zelickson, who you might know from WCCO Radio or Minnesota Monthly magazine.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know Sue over the past three years through Women Who Really Cook (a wonderful organization of women doing great things in the world of food) and enjoyed watching her connect and inspire others like me.

The Charlie Awards is a brand new celebration for the food and restaurant community; highlighting local restaurants who create awesome dishes. Since it's the first one, I'm not entirely sure what to expect, but I do know there will be awards, entertainment, and several other activities for the day.

Everyone is invited - find more information on their website by clicking here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Almond Milk Spelt Pancakes

Ever have one of those mornings where you really want to make something good for breakfast, but realize you lack most of the ingredients?

Yeah, that was me this morning. I got up early only to remember we were out of milk, eggs, soy milk, and all veggies except carrots and cabbage. Darn! We've just been so busy lately (psst…we're moving; more on that later) that grocery shopping fell to the bottom of the list.

Luckily, this is exactly the kind of challenge I love: cooking with what you have. Plus, I've cooked enough vegan breakfasts to know that milk and eggs aren't entirely necessary. I started rummaging through the fridge and our cupboards and came up with these:

Voila - Chocolate Almond Milk Spelt Pancakes! I used a variation of Vegan Yum Yum's Easy Breakfast Pancakes (from her cookbook) and really enjoyed the end result. If only I had chocolate chips...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Curried Pumpkin & Wild Rice Soup

You know what's awesome? Coming home from an after-work workout and inhaling the wonderful scents of a meal already in progress.

Last night, Ryan took charge of dinner, saving us from another night of takeout. The main ingredient was a pumpkin we picked up a few weeks back in La Crosse that had been sitting on a table in the corner of our kitchen begging to be used.

Since butternut squash and pumpkin are pretty interchangeable (heck, most canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash), we made one of the winning recipes from FoodNirvana, the food competition at Minnesota Street Market that I judged. We reduced the coconut milk, added a little lime juice and seasoned it up with salt and pepper and enjoyed a delicious dinner.

Curried Pumpkin and Wild Rice Soup
Serves 6-8
Adapted from JJ and Lisa Torborg's recipe
1 cup uncooked wild rice
3 cups water
2 ½ pounds pumpkin
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup orange juice
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped,
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 can coconut milk (we used 1/2 can)
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 wedges lime, juiced

In a pot, bring the wild rice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 35 - 40 min until kernels are tender and just begin to pop open.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, scrape the inside clean, and save the seeds for future use. Lay the pumpkin face side down in a large baking dish. Cook for 45-60 minutes or until tender, using a fork to check tenderness. When tender, scoop pumpkin away from skin, place in a bowl, and mash lightly. Once the pumpkin is lightly mashed, mix in the vegetable broth and orange juice.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and the garlic until tender. Season with the curry powder. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Mix in the cooked wild rice and coconut milk (taste for sweetness) and cook until heated through. Season with salt, pepper, and lime juice and serve.

Monday, October 3, 2011

North Coast Nosh 2

This weekend I attended the 2nd North Coast Nosh event at Peace Coffee Shop and XYandZGallery that was put on by Heavy Table and Peace Coffee. As soon as I walked by the food trucks prepping samples (World Street Kitchen, Vellee Deli, Hola Arepa, Saucy Burt's and Nate Dogs), I knew I was in for a good night of food.

We leisurely wandered from table to table, nibbling on blue cheese from the Caves of Faribault, brioche doughnuts from Bogart Loves, cupcakes from Sweets Bakeshop and continued the local love by drinking our way through the beverage offerings too. Harriet Brewing, Crispin, and Bittercube proved too hard to resist and it was nice to wind down with the most wonderful coffee creation ever. Behold, the Smokey Salted Caramel Cortado from Peace Coffee Shop:


This was the only photo I took from the evening; I guess I was too busy eating, drinking, and talking!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Food Nirvana at Minnesota Street Market

If you've read this blog for awhile, you probably know I'm a fan of road trips. So, when I was asked to judge a cooking competition in St. Joseph, I jumped at the opportunity to check out a new city and spend time with our friends who live in St. Cloud.

Ryan and I drove about an hour and a half northwest to Minnesota Street Market, the new food and art co-op in St. Joseph.

With the grand opening of the market, there was live music, yarn spinning, food and art demos, and the main event (at least for me) was the cook-off, Food Nirvana, where each entry must use at least 3 co-op ingredients.

Darrel Halverson, Executive Chef at the College of St. Benedict and I were co-judges for the day.

We tasted and rated appetizers, entrees and desserts based on based on 4 criteria:
  • Taste and flavor
  • Use of co-op ingredients
  • Originality
  • Technical (did they follow the rules?)
Darrel and I scored similarly, so the winners of each category, as well as the overall winner, was pretty clear.  
First Place Appetizer :: Pate Tempeh by Michael Willems

This appetizer was so flavorful and had a nice mouth feel. Plus, the way it was served was such a cute and creative idea.
First Place Entrée :: Curried Squash and Wild Rice Soup by Lisa and JJ Torborg
The curry and coconut flavors in this soup paired well with the nutty wild rice. It was something I could see myself making and is easy enough for a beginner cook to put together too.
First Place Dessert :: Three Ginger Cookies by Katie Ritger
The combination of fresh and crystallized ginger made for an impactful flavor and didn't overwhelm the subtle rustic taste of home-ground spelt flour.
Overall Grand Winner :: Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Honey, Peaches and Hazelnuts by Ellen Peterson

One word: delicious. The panna cotta was delicate and flecked with fresh vanilla seeds that complimented spicy cardamom flavors in the peach and honey topping and could easily be switched up to accommodate the seasonality of fresh fruit.

I could tell a lot of effort was put into each entry and I enjoyed every bite of fresh flavor. It was a fun job to taste all of the dishes and to meet folks in the local community of St. Joseph. With two college campuses nearby, I think Minnesota Street Market is a much needed neighbor.

Find more pictures from the Food Nirvana event on the Café Cyan Facebook page.

Winning recipes can be found on the Minnesota Street Market website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New: Grape Chia Kombucha

I'm a HUGE fan of kombucha, especially GT's Synergy brand. I've been following along on Facebook and keep hearing about their latest product, a chia kombucha. As you know, I love chia and have made several things using chia seeds, so I really wanted to try it.

Luckily, chia kombucha has recently made its way to Minnesota and I picked up a bottle to try. After pondering the flavor and texture, I'm still not sure if I like it or not. I really really missed the grape flavor (it was my favorite flavor back before it was pulled from the shelves), so I love that grape is being offered again, but the slightly gelatinous texture confuses my brain a little.

Have you tried the new chia kombuchas? What did you think?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Smoked Trout & Roasted Beet Salad

This past weekend we took Ryan's grandma out to the Mill City Farmers Market and then to Spoonriver for brunch. It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful time leisurely making our way to each destination, stopping to chat with friends along the way.

As much as we wanted to buy just about everything at the market, we reeled it in and bought only enough to get us through meals this week, not wanting anything to go to waste.

Last night we put together a salad that was oh-so-local!

I neglected to take a picture of it last night, but snapped one on my phone today at lunch. We roasted candy striped beets (Loon Organics) along with some small red onions and put them on a bed of spinach (Dehn's Garden) with chevre (Singing Hills Dairy) and smoked trout (Star Prairie). Yum!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cauliflower, Cauliflower, Cauliflower

Wow, what a fun weekend! I started Saturday morning bright and early to be a guest on the Fresh and Local Show. It's my third year doing the show and I love it more and more every time. It's crazy how fast an hour can pass when you're having fun with hosts like Susan Berkson and Bonnie Dehn.

Me and Bonnie Dehn of Dehn's Garden
They already have the audio posted on their website, broken up into 4 parts. I'm in the 3rd section, but feel free to listen to all segments for fun facts about cauliflower.

Sunday morning was another early one as we drove to the Minneapolis Farmers Market where I was doing a cooking demonstration on cauliflower, the market's featured ingredient this week.

Prepping for Cauliflower & Potato Curry

I demonstrated two dishes: Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette & Cauliflower and Potato Curry. Both recipes will be listed on the farmers market website and I'll put one on Bite of Minnesota (on Tuesday), so click over tomorrow for delicious dinner ideas.

I also showed some uses for spicy pickled cauliflower that, one of which I plan on using at my next dinner club :) 

Be sure to listen to the Fresh and Local Show each Saturday at 8-9am on AM950 and then head over to the Minneapolis Farmers Market for a Market Talk cooking demo at 10:30am (both Saturday and Sunday). There are some great people coming up including my friend and fellow blogger, Bill Roehl of Lazy Lightning and Shaina Olmanson from Food for My Family.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Food of the Big Island

Ryan and I tend to be very food focused when we go on vacation, plotting out where we need to make reservations and where we can just drop in, highlighting key menu items, and planning our trip around meals.

This Hawaii trip was quite different - we didn't plan anything food related. That's right, no planning at all. We figured we'd just let it all happen and happen it did! Check out the delicious food we ate while on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Jackie Rey's: Kalua pork spring rolls (amazing), tuna poke with taro chips and salad with hummus and basil pesto vinaigrette. My friend just saw Alton Brown there.

Island Lava Java, a coffeehouse using locally produced ingredients. Sipped Kona coffee while overlooking the ocean.

Grilled ono salad at U-Top-It. We went for breakfast, but I was in the mood for lunch.

Ryan's farm vegetable crepe topped with gravy and 2 eggs at U-Top-It.

OUR spot for sushi in Kona. Owner Seiji Mizukami is the best!

All of this plus miso soup for under $10 at Seiji's Brew Garden in Kona.

Passionfruit Wheat & Coconut Porter? I'm in!

Awa, made from kava root - a drink to help you relax.
Doesn't taste too great and makes your mouth tingle.

Noshing at Kanaka Kava: Kalua pork, breadfruit, purple sweet potatoes,
poi, tuna poke and seared ahi.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Beauty of the Big Island

Travel is a funny thing for us and always seems to fall in our laps. Ryan and I used to travel several times per year for our jobs and it was rare for us to be in control of the destination. Work travel has taken us to many great places like Boston, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Orlando to name a few. We'd always add a day or two to the trip and make a mini-vacation out of it, hitting up as many sights and restaurants as we could.

Now that we're not doing any work travel, it's up to us to plan our vacations and lately, we've been fantasizing about tropical destinations. We've considered Mexico, the Caribbean, and even the coast of Spain, but nothing stuck out to us as "the place". Then, all of the sudden, we received an invite to stay with some family members/good friends on the Big Island of Hawaii.

It took about 2 days for us to pick the dates, find a flight, and plan the trip. We had never been to Hawaii (much less on a beach vacation), but we knew to pack light. After some marathon shopping for shorts, sandals, and swimsuits, we flew out for a week of relaxation.

We lazed around with the sea turtles.

Snorkeled for the first time ever...
...and swam among schools of beautiful fish.
We hiked over unstable lava rocks… get to the most amazing hidden beach.
We rented a jeep and drove around the entire island,
watching the landscape change every few miles.

And stopped along the way to see beautiful waterfalls.

We hiked through a crater and saw a full rainbow.
And got to see an active volcano (from a safe distance, of course).
Simply put, the trip was amazing and just what I needed. I unplugged from technology (we even used walkie talkies to communicate instead of cell phones) and I had a really tough time getting back into doing the things I used to do, like blog. While I can't completely shun technology in my regular life, I love that the trip allowed me to take a step out of the daily grind and gain some perspective.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberries Are Here!

Read more on my WCCO blog, Bite of Minnesota.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Pizza

Last time I made caramelized onion pizza, I loved the sweet flavor it gave to the normally savory pizza, but it was missing a little bite. Thinking blue cheese is the answer, I decided to try it out using Nu World cheese from the U of M dairy salesroom. Nu World can best be described as a white blue cheese as it lacks the signature blue vein, but still tastes just like blue cheese.

First, I caramelized a whole mess of onions.

Then I topped a homemade pizza crust with the caramelized onions and Nu World cheese crumbles. After baking, we couldn't wait to dig in.

As expected, the pizza was delicious and we had to hold ourselves back a little because we had to save room for a second pizza. Yep, we made two. The second one used U of M feta, mozzarella, artichokes, red onions, and black garlic.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

After splurging on cheese at the U of M dairy salesroom, I had to make sure I didn't let any of it go to waste. I was craving mini grilled cheese ever since the Muir Glen dinner at Corner Table and knew the creamy havarti would be perfect for it.

I managed to get a quick picture of the grilled cheeses before we inhaled them all - not the best photo, but you get the point.

I also made my favorite quick soup: tomato and basil.

Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(serves 4)
Print Recipe

1 long, thin baguette
6-8 oz. creamy havarti or smoked gouda
3 tbsp butter
Sea salt or kosher salt

Preheat a large pan or griddle over medium heat. Thinly slice the baguette (or have your bakery slice it for you) and thinly slice the cheese.

Melt butter in hot griddle and add half of the baguette slices. Top with cheese and second baguette slice. Cook until lightly browned and flip. Cook until second side is lightly browned, adding more butter if needed. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

U of M - Dairy Salesroom

Visiting the dairy salesroom at the University of Minnesota was like visiting a candy store with the large variety of cheese and ice cream. Everything is made by students for classes and projects are for sale each Wednesday from 3pm - 5pm. I've been eager to visit ever since I first heard about it and finally made the trek with my food lover friend, Sarah.

When it comes to food, I sometimes go a little bit overboard in my purchases, especially when I feel like it might be my only time visiting. I mean, do I really need 6 kinds of cheese, 6 varieties of ice cream and 2 yogurts?

That Smoked Swiss Spread was amazing. Completely unhealthy, but totally awesome scooped up with pretzels and crackers. We used the other cheeses in some recipes which I'll share in future posts. The yogurts were good too (especially the peach flavor with big chunks of peaches), but I could tell they were loaded with sugar since we normally eat plain yogurt.

All of the ice cream flavors sounded so wonderful that I had a hard time deciding. In the end, I went with eggnog, whitehouse, pumpkin pie, apple pie crunch, mint chip, and blueberry cheesecake (which was gifted to my sister in law).

My favorite was the apple pie crunch with apples and cinnamon swirled in. The whitehouse was also quite good with bites of cherry and big chunks of chocolate. Both needed some tweaks (more apples and less chocolate), but I suppose that's the point of the salesroom - to get sell practice work.

If you happen to get off work early on a Wednesday, buzz over to the dairy salesroom to check out what's for sale. Ice cream flavors vary week by week, so get there early if you want first choice.

Food Science & Nutrition Dairy Salesroom
University of Minnesota - St. Paul Campus
1354 Eckles Avenue

Open Wednesdays, 3pm - 5pm

Monday, May 30, 2011

Strib Taste 50: My Faves

Woo hoo, the Taste 50 is out! For the sixth year in a row, the Star Tribune released its list of 50 people, places, products and ideas that reinforce our great Minnesota food culture. The list serves both as a reminder of what I already know to be great picks and as a resource for finding new things to explore.

Here are five of my favorites from the 2011 Taste 50:

Peace Coffee Shop at Wonderland Park
One of my favorite coffee shops because of the great coffee and open atmosphere. Plus, I had always wondered why Peace Coffee didn't have a shop of their own. Now they do! Here's my take from when they first opened.

Hello?! Did you read Ryan's post on the Bittercube class at Kitchen in the Market? Not only are the guys at Bittercube creative and fun, but they are helping everyday people transform everyday cocktails. Yum.

Smack Shack
I really like lobster, but rarely dine at restaurants that offer it. Smack Shack offers a convenient and delicious alternative straight out of a food truck in the form of their hard-to-resist lobster rolls.

Image Credit: Smude Enterprises

Smude's Natural Sunflower Oil
I discovered this product at the Homegrown Experience last year and love using it in salad dressings and slow-roasted vegetables as adds the nutty flavor of sunflower seeds.

Des Moines
It's so exciting that Des Moines made the list as I've been touting it as a foodie town and a great getaway for quite some time. In fact, check out my post from our last road trip to Des Moines. It was a blast!

Be sure to read the rest of the Taste 50 here. What are your favorites from the list?
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